Letter of Concern
On Collapsing Noses and Bank Runs
I dated a boy in Silicon Valley once. We met at a networking event put on by our alma mater in a staid corporate conference room in Mountain View — or was it San Jose? — for venture capitalists and young entrepreneurs. The boy aspired to disrupt the trucking industry and had empathetic eyes. Northern California was filled with dreamers back then, as I suppose it still is, but for whatever reason I found them more compelling in the early 2010s, or at least more convincingly focused on “technology as a lever for progress.”1
For context: during this era I, too, attended Gary Vaynerchuk book signings and kept a copy of Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh on my nightstand. I didn’t perceive hustle-culture books in a crash-pad apartment in SOMA as a red flag so much as evidence of unbridled entrepreneurial ambition. Nor did I blink when this Silicon Valley boy asserted that one day — likely as soon as tomorrow — he wouldn’t have a nose.
Because I felt bad the Silicon Valley boy suffered from what I don’t hope but do believe was a genuine cartilage-related autoimmune disorder, I tended to overlook his transgressions. Like the time he stood me up for an 8:00 PM dinner reservation and didn’t text until 11:30 PM on account of he’d lost track of time cleaning his bathroom. Or the cigarette he smoked out my living room window that prompted my landlord to contact Health and Human Services and my roommate to write me a detailed “letter of concern.” (Did I know our building was nearly 80 years old and Highly Flammable?) On our third date, we determined his dog had brought fleas into my apartment and we broke my vacuum cleaner trying to rush-treat the carpet with Diatomaceous earth. We then borrowed the next-door neighbor’s vacuum cleaner and broke that as well. While we were trying to fix the second vacuum cleaner he berated me for buying the wrong HEPA filter. When he broke out into a full-body itch in my living room, he casually wondered aloud if he didn’t actually have scabies.
All this to say: In the wake of Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse, I find myself thinking about his Nose. I picture it disappeared from his face and anthropomorphized à la Gogol2, dressed up in a “gold-embroidered uniform with a big stand-up collar and doeskin breeches3” and in an existential panic as it makes a rush on deposits at SVB headquarters in Santa Clara.
Out of curiosity I checked Facebook: the Silicon Valley boy recently married a stunningly beautiful bride. His startup never made it past Series A and his dog eventually passed.
As far as I can tell, his nose is doing just fine.
“The End of Silicon Valley Bank—And a Silicon Valley Myth” by Derek Thompson
“Well, I can’t tell you how; but the main thing is that it is now gallivanting around town and calling itself a state councillor.” - Nikolai Gogol, “The Nose”
Or in a Patagonia Fleece and Allbirds, more likely.